Oral Health in Primary Education

Oral Health 2020 Goal: Incorporate oral health into the primary education system

Tooth decay (dental caries) affects U.S. children more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that inhibit eating, speaking, playing, learning, and being successful in school.  Children from low income families have “12 times as many activity-restricted days per year” from dental illness than their higher-income peers. Untreated infections in the mouth also put children at risk for infections in their ears, sinuses and other parts of their bodies. 

Schools are an underutilized resource for children’s health and oral health.  Healthy children at school, free from hunger and pain, can focus on academics and are less apt to disrupt the classroom. School-based oral health education, screenings, assisted referral, and delivery of oral preventive care services provide equitable, reliable entry into long-term oral health care and assist parents by reducing the need to take time from work and find transportation. Children who receive care in schools also can become an entry point for others in the family to connect with an oral health care provider.  The combination of education, prevention, and access to care has the potential to nearly eliminate tooth decay in school-age children.

Oral Health 2020 Target: The 10 largest school districts have incorporated oral health into their systems.